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Saturday, August 14, 2010

2010 Apologetics Conference in Atlanta

Last year I attended the Annual Apologetics Conference hosted by the Evangelical Philosophical Society. It was in New Orleans and ran simultaneously with the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Evangelical Theological Society. I blogged about it here.

This year the meetings of all those organizations will be in Atlanta, Nov. 18-20. That makes it very convenient for me. The societies will be meeting in hotels in downtown Atlanta but the Apologetics Conference will be held at the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta. The church is pastored by Bryan Wright who was just elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention and it is also the home church of the famed apologist, William Lane Craig.

Here are some of the sessions that interest me and that I will attempt to attend.

Alvin Plantinga, "Religion and Science: Where the Conflict Really Lies."

I argue that there is no conflict between classical Christian belief and current scientific evolutionary theory, including the natural selection. Those who say that there are, are ordinarily confusing a theological or metaphysical gloss on the theory with the theory itself. I go on to argue that there is conflict between current evolutionary theory and naturalism, the doctrine that there is no such person as God or anything like God, in that one cannot rationally accept them both. So, since naturalism is a religion or at least a quasi-religion, there is a science-religion conflict, all right, but it's between naturalism and science, not Christian belief and science.

William Craig, "The Evidence for Christianity."
This session will attempt to grapple with the objection to Christian belief that "There's not enough evidence!"

Gary Habermas, "Shroud of Turin: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus?"
The Shroud of Turin is once again in the news, featuring a host of biblical, historical, and scientific questions concerning the most researched archaeological artifact in history. What does this cloth indicate in relation to Jewish burial procedures? Is the image on the cloth really that of a crucified man? What is the likelihood that it could even possibly be the actual cloth in which Jesus was buried? And what, if any, potential evidence is there for the resurrection of Jesus? These are some of the focal points for this lecture and Power Point presentation.

Mark Linville, "Human Dignity and the Imago Dei: A Moral Argument for God"
Our most deep-seated moral beliefs (e.g., "Rape is wrong") invoke a principle of respect-for-persons, which is grounded in the notion of personal dignity. Personal dignity, in turn, calls for a view of the world that is consistent with theism but inconsistent with naturalism. And so, theism is in a better position to make sense of such moral beliefs than is naturalism.

Craig Keener, "Before the Gospels were written, How Reliable Were the Oral Traditions About Jesus?"
This session will explore how information was passed on in antiquity, especially by disciples of teachers. It will also show how biographies written as long after their subjects as the Gospels were about Jesus normally relied on plentiful information. Even from a secular historical perspective, why should the Gospels be less accurate than comparable figures, apart from anti-biblical prejudices?

Mark Foreman, "Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Alleged Parallels between Jesus and Ancient Pagan Religions."
In recent years "The Zeitgeist Movie" has been making the rounds on the internet claiming that the Gospel portrayals of Jesus are works of fiction based on the myths of earlier pagan religions. The film has led many Christians to question their faith. In the film several parallels are drawn between Jesus and the pagan gods Horus, Attis, Krishna, Dionysius, and Mithra. On the basis of these alleged parallels it is claimed that all of these myths are derived from solar worship and that the gospel accounts of Jesus are not history, but just another version of the solar myth. This talk will challenge this argument and demonstrate the fallaciousness of such reasoning.

Robert Stewart, "Worldviews: What They Are and Why They Matter."
Worldviews make a world of difference. But what are they? How do they work? Why do they matter? How do you critique them? There's a lot of misleading or less than helpful information out there about them. This session will help you understand worldviews better and equip you to interact more fruitfully with those who have a different worldview.

Angus Menuge, "Reason Cannot be Located in a Materialist World."
Any satisfactory account of human beings must locate human reasoning, by showing how it arises from the account?s underlying ontology (its theory of what exists). For materialism to be successful, human reasoning must be located in a world consisting of particles and undirected forces. The so-called "argument from reason" is a family of arguments designed to show that materialism cannot satisfy this demand. Most fundamentally, materialism fails because rational deliberation presupposes the existence of persistent, unified selves with libertarian free will. This requires an ontology of substantial agent causes, characterized by active power, teleology and downward causation, none of which can plausibly be located in a materialist world. Reason itself also has a number of characteristics (including intentionality, teleology, normativity and prescriptivity) that do not reduce to materialist categories. Finally, materialist attempts to explain human reasoning by appeal to Darwinian evolution imply that our reason cannot be trusted, especially in science and philosophy. Moreover, while not the only alternative to materialism, Judeo-Christian Theism is well-equipped to locate human reasoning because the ontology of human reasoning is exemplified by God, and therefore implausible materialist reductions of this ontology are not required. The argument from reason can be developed into a defense of scripture?s claim that human beings are made in the image of God.

Francis Beckwith, "Natural Rights and the New Atheists."

Most people believe that human beings have certain rights by nature, that is, rights that do not depend on governments for their legitimacy. The New Atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, seem to believe this as well. However, unlike the American Founders as well as those thinkers in the natural law tradition, the New Atheists deny that natural rights are grounded in a natural moral law whose source is God. They believe that naturalistic evolution can account for this natural moral law. In this talk, Professor Beckwith responds to the New Atheists and explains why the natural moral law is best accounted for by a Divine Law Giver.

Paul Copan, "The Naturalists Are Declaring the Glory of God: How Atheists Help Defend God's Existence."
Not only are there good reasons for taking God's existence seriously; many naturalists themselves come to the assistance of the theist by revealing how a God-less universe leaves too many gaps and unanswered questions. The emergence of the universe and its fine-tuning for life, consciousness, moral values/human dignity, beauty, reason, free will, and a number of other phenomena is difficult to account for given naturalism, but more easily explained given theism.

Mike Licona, "Were The Earliest Reports of Jesus' Resurrection Based on Visions?"
In discussions of Jesus' resurrection, one of the most popular naturalistic theories is that the disciples and Paul experienced incorporeal visions of Jesus. Using Paul's letters in support, these skeptics argue that Paul envisioned a "spiritual" resurrection and that the Gospels present later stories of a bodily raised Jesus that contradict what Paul and the earliest Christians believed and taught. In this seminar, Dr. Licona will tackle the most common Pauline texts employed in support and demonstrate that Paul actually had a bodily resurrection of Jesus in mind!

Chad Meister, "Evil, Suffering, and the World's Religions."
Evil and suffering are central to human experience, and each of the major religions of the world offers a response to this ubiquitous problem. What are these solutions? And how does the Christian solution compare to those of the other major religions? These are the questions we will explore in this session.

Chris Weaver, "How to Handle Different Arguments from Evil for God's Non-Existence."
Contemporary arguments from evil for God's non-existence can be accurately divided into those which attempt to show that God's existence is somehow incompatible with the real presence of evil in the world, and those which attempt to show that evil in the world somehow shows that God's existence is highly unlikely or improbable. Arguments resembling the former description are sometimes called deductive or logical problems of evil, whereas arguments like the latter kind are often referred to as evidential or inductive arguments from evil. In my short presentation, I will explore what I think are several lines of plausible responses to arguments of the evidential or inductive sort. The first such reply leans upon the work of Thomas Crisp, and attempts to show that particular premises of evidential arguments are recondite philosophical theses and can be objected to by an appeal to what's called the "evolutionary argument against evil". The second type of response to evidential arguments suggests that several of the premises of evidential arguments from evil can be parried by an appeal to what scholars call "Skeptical Theism". The last plausible rejoinder to evidential arguments I will present involves an appropriation of an argument for the controversial thesis that "God is the good", and that as the transcendental source of good, any appeal to objective moral value in the world (including instances of radical evil) materially implies God's existence.

Jim Spiegel, "The Making of An Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief"
The new atheists are having a significant impact on our culture today, and Christian apologists have provided some strong rejoinders to their arguments. However, we cannot ignore the moral and psychological dimensions of atheism, such as those described in Romans 1 and Ephesians 4. In this session I will explain how atheism is essentially a cognitive disorder arising from willful resistance to the evidence for God. I will also discuss the implications for apologetics. How should this insight impact the way we defend the faith to unbelievers, atheists in particular?

Matthew Flannagan, "God and the Genocide of the Canaanites."
How could a just and loving God command Joshua to genocide the Canaanites as is apparently taught in the Old Testament? Is God really a moral monster as Christianity's critics use these passages to claim? Matthew will re-examine these passages in light of the context they were written in showing that the skeptics' case against God relies on a questionable reading of the Old Testament.


  1. " showing that the skeptics' case against God relies on a questionable reading of the Old Testament."


    But as a devout reader of your blog, I expect you to blog extensively about all of those talks! :P

  2. "atheism is essentially a cognitive disorder.."

    LOL-so now BOTH sides are calling the other side mentally ill!

    Christians are delusional. Atheists have a cognitive disorder. No wonder there's so much confusion. It's like two mental patients arguing with each other.

    And if the atheist's disorder comes from immorality, why don't the bad morals of Christians cause their brain to go haywire?

  3. I would love to read your thoughts on all these subjects, Ken. Do you have an index of posts based on a previous conference(s)?

  4. Craig Keener, "Before the Gospels were written, How Reliable Were the Oral Traditions About Jesus?"

    I would love to hear Keener interact with Judy Redman's excellent article: “How Accurate are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research” Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010) 177-197. I think it would completely undermine any argument he would try to produce in favor of the reliability of the gospel accounts.

  5. As a possible agnostic atheist perhaps you might consider an aspect of spiritual belief that was once the intuitive basic across continents, cultures and centuries. This was recognition that the source of the light of life was a living being itself. It was NOT science, but a jealous Church that condemned Sun worship as primitive and ignorant and as we discover more about this amazing seven-levelled manager of our solar system it appears less and less likely that it is just some dumb ball of gas. I declare my interest here, having devoted a book to exploring the concept and its profound implications (titled "Sun of gOd"). In it, I make the point that whether or not one chooses to regard our local star as divine, the recognition of it as a living being is hard to avoid once one has looked at the evidence staring us in the face. This is probably the biggest elephant that ever fit into the room of Western culture.
    Gregory Sams, the author

  6. atheism is essentially a cognitive disorder arising from willful resistance to the evidence for God.

    Oh, this idiot. He wrote a book about this and blogs about it. He claims to have investigated the matter thoroughly, and this is what he came up with - atheists delude themselves so they can behave badly. IOW, the same old crap, yet he presents it as though he's uncovered something groundbreaking. He seems to be trying desperately to convince himself.

    He's a "Christian Philosopher" at a jerkwater Christian clown college. He wouldn't qualify as a fry cook at a real college with a Christian orientation, such as Calvin - although the people there aren't real Christians; some of the biology faculty actually (gasp!) believe in evolution!

    He also belongs to the Society of Evangelical Philosophers, or some such thing. I've reported them to the Oxymoron Police.

    Ken, I don't know where you get the stomach for this sort of thing. I'm angry that they even exist; there's no way in which I could subject myself to a convention hall full of them. I'm enraged that there are enough of them to fill a convention hall.

  7. Wow, Ken,

    That's a lot of heavy stuff to sit through... probably some time conflicts so you may not be able to get to all... sure wish I was free and able to join you. Any other friends planning to go along as well (non-Evangelical/Christian ones that is?)

    Tho some of the details may be interesting, I'm eager to hear what you pick up of THEIR perception of the skeptics/critics of today (not just the "new atheists") vs. of a few decades ago. I think the doubts, etc. are coming much more from INSIDE now, and a major concern to them. And not only more insider doubts, but more solid material to feed and strengthen those doubts (again, not mainly "new atheists," but genuine religious and NT scholars, or historians of religion, etc.)

  8. This article refutes and disproves claims of Zeitgeist movie, from the part of Christianity:

    I suggest to read the article!

  9. This conference sounds great! I can't wait to attend. William Lane Craig is awesome.